New UK digital production and distribution company Slingshot Studios has hosted the world's first online test screening for its first feature, Sugarhouse Lane .

For the screening, Slingshot partnered with LoveFilm, Arts Alliance Media and Nielsen NRG for the project, which screened the film to more than 500 people in early December. Slingshot plans to self distribute Gary Love's urban drama in early 2007. It stars Steven Mack, Ashley Walters and Andy Serkis.

The test group was a specially profiled audience selected from UK consumers of online DVD rental site LoveFilm. Arts Alliance Media, which is a LoveFilm investor, hosted the online screening using its LoveFilm Pro technology, and Nielsen NRG provided research design and analysis.

Viewers had a three-day window to log into a secure site and view the film. After viewing, they completed an online questionnaire.

'Using the LoveFilm customer base allowed us to pre-screen a highly appropriate target audience for Sugarhouse Lane, and then capture their honest and frank feedback on the film, whilst the LoveFilm Pro technology guaranteed the security of the film for the three-day screening period,' said Slingshot CEO Arvind David. 'The online test provided a cost effective solution enabling us to reach an audience of over 500. We couldn't have gotten this level of feedback anywhere else, and it was invaluable to us in re-editing the film. Having completed our first digital feature Slingshot is continuing to use digital technology to innovate at every stage of the production process.'

AAM said it intended to use LoveFilm Pro to host other test screenings in the future. Howard Kiedaisch, CEO of Arts Alliance Media, said: 'Film producers no longer have to rely solely on cinema-based screenings in specific locations - they can now poll hundreds of people across the country in one go and have access to a wide range of information about their opinions and tastes.'